PGA Tour Confidential: The AT&T National

PGA Tour Confidential: The AT&T National

Start of something major? Justin Rose has won twice in the last month on the PGA Tour.
Fred Vuich/SI

Every week of the 2010 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.


Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: We are in the midst of the summer of Justin Rose, and who among us saw this coming? All he’s done in the last five weeks is win the Memorial and the AT&T National. Only Tiger Woods and K.J. Choi have pulled off that same-year double, and it easily could have been a three-pack if not for Rose’s messy Sunday at the Travelers. I see majors in his future, and soon. I see him being among the players who will make Tiger’s road to 19 majors twisted and grueling. What have you, lovers of golf, seen from Rose in the last month? A nice patch of play or the next Nick Faldo?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Somewhere in between, skewing toward nice patch of play. He now has to be considered a dark horse at the majors, but I’m still not ready to become a believer.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: We have to keep in mind that Rose is (sorry) a late-bloomer. The guy did nothing but miss cuts when he first turned pro, and then he was the king of the 18- and 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour. Now he’s figuring out he’s good enough to win. I’m with you, Damon. I think Rose will win majors.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I like his upside as much anybody out there. Plus, he’s learning how to win and fully accepts that the process is bumpy and rough. He’s getting better. My only question is, does he win a green jacket or claret jug first?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I like Rose’s game, especially driving and putting, but he’s not nearly as steely as Faldo. I see Rose having a nice career and contending, and probably stumbling a few times, before winning a major.

Van Sickle: Two wins don’t make a player a favorite to win a major championship. But in Rose’s case, it’s a strong step forward.

Morfit: I agree that he’ll probably need to put himself in the smoke on Sunday at a major once or twice before he figures out how to win one. St. Andrews next week is probably too soon, especially given the added pressure of playing in the home Open.

Van Sickle: Don’t make those Scots angry, Cam. The Open is in Scotland. Rose is from England.

Morfit: Well aware, Gary, but an Open is an Open in the history books. I’d bet Tiger still counts the U.S. Opens he won outside his home state of California.

Van Sickle: Unless California and Oregon have a war, I don’t think the comparison works. In lieu of a Scot, though, you’re right — fans over there will root for any European over any American or anyone else.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Justin Rose has game, and right now he’s probably playing better than anybody in the world, but he’s got to show me something in the majors, where his best finish was a tie for fourth at the at the 1998 British Open.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I don’t see any killer in him. I don’t see a gift for putting, not that Faldo had it either, particularly. Having said that, he looks like he’s made for U.S. Open play, and, if he can take the heat, the PGA Championship, too. But he will win his major on his schedule, sometime between now and 2028.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Justin Rose’s run reminds me of the hot streaks we saw from Kenny Perry a few times in the mid-2000s. Huge off the tee, irons like rockets and riding a hot putter. Perry also started his tears at the Memorial, as I recall. I’m not ready to hand Mr. Rose the claret jug just yet, but he’s certainly the hottest player out there right now.


Hack: Speaking of Tiger, he finished two touchdowns behind Rose despite driving the ball “on a string,” as he put it. Had to be an awkward week, with divorce figures being tossed around the Internet and his strange role as ex-host of a tournament created in his honor. His foundation still benefited from the tournament, and he has long been front and center in honoring our nation’s troops, but he seemed diminished at Aronimink, both by the weird circumstances and the quality of his golf. Does Tiger even deserve to be the favorite at St. Andrews? I’m still picking him to win, nutty as that may seem.

Van Sickle: If you mean betting favorite, the public decides that by how much it wagers on him. If you mean generic favorite, as considered by us media hackophiles, I don’t see how it can be Tiger. Yeah, he won there in ’00 and ’05, but based on the last six months, those wins were eons ago. He isn’t the same player at the moment. I’m not saying he can’t win. But there is slim evidence right now to indicate he should be the favorite. I’m not sure who should be. Phil? Justin? Jimenez? Bubba?

Evans: Tiger has to be the favorite with his record on the Old Course.

Shipnuck: Tiger is not my favorite. He has only looked like Tiger for 9 holes this year. I don’t see him suddenly putting it together for St. Andrews.

Morfit: Agree with Shipnuck. He’s won at Muirfield and Pebble and couldn’t find it at either this year. Why would he suddenly become Tiger Woods again at St. Andrews?

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: As he pointed out repeatedly, he drove it well last week. His putter should come around. Gotta think he’ll be in it down the stretch.

Bamberger: To win on the Old Course, your head has to be on straight for 72 holes, unless you’re a Daly-like savant. You need great lag putting, you have to miss the gorse and certain traps. You can’t get away with much, and even good shots take weird hops. Based on Aronimink, Tiger’s not close to ready, imho. Which likely means he is.

Herre: A change of scenery might be just what Tiger needs. He’s likely to get chewed up in the British press, but does anyone pay attention to that? I think the fans will be welcoming. Woods needs to get some confidence with the putter. Maybe that’ll happen on the slow greens at the Old Course.

Hack: I sure hope he avoids reading the papers next week. Those UK tabs make our American publications seem like those old Scholastic readers (I Spy a Balloon).

Bamberger: I think he’ll have no problems with the tabs. They root for the underdog, and Tiger is now an underdog. Has been since Saturday at Pebble.

Van Sickle: Tiger would be wise to play to the fans just a bit, something he’s never done at the Open, to stir up a little more support. The British fans respect his golf, but they’ve never loved him. I remember him getting solid but polite applause walking up 18 in ’05, not wild ovations like Watson and others have gotten.

Bamberger: That’s right — they like to see humility. That’s why it took them so long to warm up to Big Jack, but they did. Tiger loves St. Andrews. If he can show that, it will be a big help to him.

Dusek: Tiger is not my favorite at St. Andrews. I thought he’d be further along than he is at this point. Sure, he’s got two fourth-place finishes at this season’s majors, but he hasn’t strung three solid rounds together in any event in 2010. He’ll need four to win the Open Championship. I don’t see it happening right now.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: I wouldn’t read too much into Woods’s play at the AT&T. This was an especially weird week for him, beyond being the ex-tournament host at an unfamiliar course, we heard that he talked to the feds about the Galea probe, and it sounds like he’s nearing some sort of resolution of his marriage. He was top 5 at the Masters and the U.S. Open. I don’t see how Woods is not the favorite at St. Andrews.

Herre: Be sure to read Michael Bamberger’s piece on TW from this week’s Golf Plus — he nails it.


Hack: Was anybody else miffed that Golf Channel switched its coverage Sunday from the European Tour’s French Open playoff to show Tiger and the other final-round rabbits at the AT&T? Jimenez had just lit his cigar, for crying out loud! I know television is about ratings, but as a viewer I felt cheated, and I bet I wasn’t alone.

Herre: Geez, Damon. Stuck for something to do on the 4th of July?

Hack: I was cramming! Not easy driving these rowdy Confidential buses!

Evans: I was mad as hell about it since I had been watching the tournament since 9 am. I know the Golf Channel has contractual obligations with the PGA Tour and the sponsors, but for the love and respect of the game …

Van Sickle: Early coverage, with or without Tiger, is lame. It does not make for good TV.

Dusek: There is no drama at 11 am on Sundays.

Herre: Except in Europe.

Shipnuck: Even more maddening was zero LPGA coverage. Maybe it should be renamed the PGA Tour Channel.

Van Sickle: Not enough LPGA and maybe too much PGA Tour. Did you really want to go all 18 holes Sunday with Justin Rose? Sometimes, less is more. I wouldn’t have minded CBS coming on at 4, showing highlights of the front nine, and then picking up the back nine with the leaders.

Evans: Golf Channel should create a lineup to get every tour in on Sunday. It would be a great buy for advertisers, possibly.

Van Sickle: How is one network going to squeeze the European, PGA, LPGA, Champions and sometimes Nationwide tours into one telecast day? They’re not going to. That’s why the ladies or the Nationwide should consider Saturday or Monday finishes for better exposure.

Gorant: The Tour and the networks won’t give up on each other yet, and anything that runs opposite network Tour coverage on Golf Channel gets crushed. Gary’s right — those other guys want to be on the air when the PGA Tour is not.

Herre: What if Golf Channel cut in and out of several live telecasts, lingering wherever there was compelling action?

Hack: Direct TV does exactly that with its NFL Red Zone package. Whenever a team is inside the 20, the viewer can switch to the action. Might work in golf! The Back Nine Package!

Dusek: I don’t trust the Golf Channel to be able to weave in and out of multiple venues and storylines effectively. As we discussed last week, its coverage of the LPGA is already sub-standard. They don’t have enough high-definition cameras and quality announcing teams as it is.


Hack: Seems like only geniuses and savants win at the Old Course, which means that Phil Mickelson belongs on anybody’s short list to win. I think it’s a good thing that he goes overseas and acclimates himself to the time change, but how does playing at the non-links Loch Lomond prepare him for St. Andrews? I think he’d be better off doing a circuit of Cruden Bay, Dornoch, Nairn and Aberdeen. I’ve never felt that Phil really liked links golf, which might explain his record in the Open. Is he really a contendah?

Shipnuck: He’s planning to spend a lot of this week playing hooky from Loch Lomond so he can prepare at the Old Course, so Phil will be ready. He’s my pick to win.

Morfit: With Phil it depends on the wind, and whether he’s up for the fight. He can win, sure. He headed over on Saturday, so he’ll be plenty used to the time change.

Dusek: I think Phil is in the mix come Sunday, but there are so many Euros who are playing well this season who look to the Open Championship as the ultimate event on the calendar. Poulter, Rose, Casey, Donald, Westwood, McIlroy … the list is long and illustrious right now, and I think we’ll see a local winner this year.

Gorant: Weird season for Phil. Seems like whenever you write him off because he looks like hell (pre-Masters), he comes up big. When you expect him to play well (Players), he’s off. Don’t know what we’ll see from him.

Herre: If form holds, Phil will not contend in the British. His M.O.: Tough at Augusta, a tease in the U.S. Open, a disaster in the British and, finally, a contender in the PGA.

Van Sickle: Nice synopsis. I do like Phil’s plan to motor over (helicopter) from the Glasgow area to cipher the Old Course greens for several days early in the week. A better plan would be to skip the appearance fee for playing at Loch Lomond and spend the week at St. Andrews.

Walker: I’ve never understood why Mickelson doesn’t take more to links golf. He’s such an imaginative player, you’d think he’d welcome the chance to play more creative shots. Woods, Nicklaus and Watson all talk about how much they love links golf. You never hear that from Mickelson. Maybe it’s the food — hard to find a Five Guys or In-N-Out in Scotland.

Evans: I’ve always got the feeling that Phil prefers lush, hairy golf courses. He has the creativity to handle the trouble at St. Andrews, but I think the weather and the lumps and the general unruliness of the golf course play tricks on his mind. The more controlled and predictable the environment, the better Phil plays.

Hack: I like idiosyncratic swingers like Ryan Moore and Bubba Watson — and who doesn’t love Rory’s gifts — but I’m having a tough time looking past the usual suspects of Tiger, Paddy, Phil, Lee and Ernie.

Evans: What about the 46-year old Miguel Angel Jimenez, who beat a great field in Paris on Sunday? He goes with the recent trend of old guys (Norman and Watson) contending at the Open.

Van Sickle: He seems like he’d be a terrific character for American fans if we didn’t have the language barrier. We love the hair and the cigars and his laid-back manner.

Hack: He was the most interesting man in the world before the Dos Equis guy.

Dusek: When I asked Miguel about his new driver last year at Firestone, he said it was good, but he needed to sleep with it a little more to get to know it. (See the video. He popped his eyebrows up and down a few times and started to chuckle. American fans would love this guy if they got to know him a little more.


Hack: Well, we’re not going to ignore the women. The U.S. Women’s Open starts this week at Oakmont C.C., as stern a test as there is in golf. Better bring some sharp wedges and a hot putter. Who does everyone like, and why? I’ll stick with the hot hand of Cristie Kerr, who is quietly building a Hall of Fame career.

Shipnuck: Good call on Kerr. It’s hers to lose.

Van Sickle: The easiest call is that the only real winner will be Oakmont. If it’s too tough for the men, and it was, it’ll be too tough for the women. Oakmont is an equal opportunity destroyer.

Evans: It’s Cristie’s tournament if she can relax and not get overwhelmed by the pressure.

Bamberger: The women are going to one of the best courses in the world, where you have to do it all. A way better test than Torrey or Pebble. I don’t have a favorite, but you will never get a fluke winner there.

Herre: I assume it’s been hot and dry in Western Pennsylvania, like most of the East, and the heat is expected to be intense this week. Look for the player who can handle firey greens.

Gorant: Kerr was in the office last week, and I can tell you she’s brimming with confidence, deservedly. Almost feels like too obvious a pick though. Someone will surprise, especially on a course like Oakmont, which seems to be all about the unexpected.

Herre: Look for Cristie in this week’s SI iPad edition, where there’s video of her taking the Pop Culture Grid quiz.

Van Sickle: Watch out for Hilary Lunke and Birdie Kim.